We examine the relationship between three tropical and two subtropical western Indian Ocean coral oxygen isotope time series to surface air temperatures (SAT) and rainfall over India, tropical East Africa and southeast Africa. We review established relationships, provide new concepts with regard to distinct rainfall seasons, and mean annual temperatures. Tropical corals are coherent with SAT over western India and East Africa at interannual and multidecadal periodicities. The subtropical corals correlate with Southeast African SAT at periodicities of 16-30 years. The relationship between the coral records and land rainfall is more complex. Running correlations suggest varying strength of interannual teleconnections between the tropical coral oxygen isotope records and rainfall over equatorial East Africa. The relationship with rainfall over India changed in the 1970s. The subtropical oxygen isotope records are coherent with South African rainfall at interdecadal periodicities. Paleoclimatological reconstructions of land rainfall and SAT reveal that the inferred relationships generally hold during the last 350 years. Thus, the Indian Ocean corals prove invaluable for investigating land-ocean interactions during past centuries. © Springer-Verlag 2008.